It’s always refreshing to have someone from a district in the room. I had the privilege of hearing Brian Pick, Chief of Teaching and Learning from the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), when he came to the Foundation recently. He talked about a set of cornerstone courses they created and how they were using them. It all made great sense: Create a set of corner stone courses, include concrete tasks in them that can be used at least 4x a year at PD discussions about the quality of student work produced and how it was produced; the insertion of what he called high leverage instructional practices into these lessons (i.e. close reading, inquiry) to create common instructional practices. He talked about how they rolled these out and brought teachers together in roles alike peer cohorts for discussions throughout the year. Teachers teaching teachers. They leveraged strong teacher leaders from partners like LearnZillion and created different roles for teachers to lead without leaving the classroom. The icing on the cake was how they make the work public, and he described the coming together of 200 kids and their parents at a recent middle school showcase where kids were as proud of their work as they would if they had entered a science fair! I think that notion of making the work public and celebrated is often forgotten in the rush to align assignments to standards, and the real judge are the way that students can talk about the work and take pride in it at the end of the day. My favorite quote he used is from a teacher in Memphis:
My best teaching happens when I forget to teach curriculum and I remember to teach kids.